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Miller House and Garden Collection


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Material Samples

Non-Miller House Materials

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Miller House and Garden Collection, 1953-2009 | Indianapolis Museum of Art Archives

By Jennifer Whitlock and Rebekah L. Myers

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Collection Overview

Title: Miller House and Garden Collection, 1953-2009Add to your cart.

ID: M/003

Primary Creator: Irwin Management Company Inc.

Other Creators: Miller, J. Irwin (Joseph Irwin) (1909-2004), Miller, Xenia S. (Xenia Simons) (1918-2008)

Extent: 335.0 Linear Feet. More info below.

Arrangement: The collection is arranged in five series: I. Files, II. Photographs, III. Drawings, IV. Material Samples, and V. Non-Miller House and Garden materials.

Date Acquired: 09/11/2009

Subjects: Eero Saarinen & Associates, Girard, Alexander Hayden (1907-1993), Kiley, Dan Urban (1912-2004), Miller, J. Irwin  (Joseph Irwin) (1909-2004), Miller, Xenia S. (1917-2008), Miller House (Columbus, Ind.), Roche, Kevin (1922-), Saarinen, Eero (1910-1961), Taylor Bros. Construction Co.

Forms of Material: architectural drawings (visual works), blueline prints, blueprints (reprographic copies), brochures, brownline prints, checklists, clippings (information artifacts), contracts documents, correspondence, financial records, inventories, invoices, marble (rock), memorandums, negatives (photographic), notes, photo CDs, photographs, slides (photographs), textiles, trade catalogs, VHS (TM)

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

NOTE: Due to a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), this collection is being digitized and will be available in early 2015. Until then, please follow along on our blog where we feature highlights from the collection: Documenting Modern Living: Digitizing the Miller House and Garden Collection http://www.imamuseum.org/digitizingmillerhouseandgarden

The Miller House and Garden Collection contains material documenting the design, construction, history, and maintenance of the residence over a period of over 50 years from 1953-2009. The materials reflect the design work of Eero Saarinen [1910-1961], Dan Kiley [1912-2004], and Alexander Girard [1907-1993], and also the involvement of J. Irwin Miller [1917-2008] and his wife Xenia Simons Miller [1917-2008] in shaping their home and garden. The collection includes four categories of materials: documents, drawings, photographs, and materials samples.

A large portion of the collection consists of the file folders of paper documents. The files include receipts, invoices, notes, lists, and inventories relating to every aspect of the property. The Millers consulted with the designers over the years as their needs changed and as the house required updating.

The collection also includes a large quantity of photographs. Many are copies from professional and nationally renowned architectural photographers such as Balthazar Korab. Some images document renovations, repairs, and other changes to the house and garden.

The architectural drawings consist of 1950s blueprints of the original house and gardens, as well as plans related to renovations and repairs through 2009. Many of the Millers’ blueprinted plans have hand written annotations from the designers. The documentation also includes some original sketches of the home and garden. Many of Girard’s original drawings for rugs, textiles, and other interior design elements are also housed in the collection.

The collection contains many textile samples related to the interior design and décor of the home. In the collection are samples from the original 1950s upholstery, rugs, and other materials used to decorate the interior. Many were specifically designed by or chosen by Alexander Girard. Some small samples are attached to pages of paper with detailed notes. Also included are three-dimensional objects such as samples of marble for the table tops and the interior walls.

Collection Historical Note

The Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Indiana, is one of the country’s most highly regarded examples of mid-century Modernist residences. The Miller House was designed by Eero Saarinen (1910-1961), with interiors by Alexander Girard (1907-1993), and landscape design by Daniel Urban Kiley (1912-2004).

Commissioned by industrialist and philanthropist J. Irwin Miller (1909-2004) and his wife Xenia Simons Miller (1917-2008) in 1953, the Miller House and Garden was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2000. The house expands upon a design approach developed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe—epitomizing the international Modernist aesthetic—with an open and flowing layout, flat roof, and vast walls of glass and stone. The interiors, configured beneath a grid pattern of skylights supported by cruciform steel columns, are filled with strong colors and playful patterns.

The Miller House and Garden is part of a Modern design legacy that extends throughout the city of Columbus, Indiana, due to the architectural patronage and civic involvement of J. Irwin Miller. As a way to attract outstanding architectural talent to design public buildings in Columbus, Miller created the Architectural Program within the Cummins Engine Foundation, which funded excellent design for public buildings. Columbus boasts more than 70 buildings by noted Modern architects—such as Richard Meier, I. M. Pei, Cesar Pelli, Robert Venturi, John Carl Warnecke and Harry Weese—as well as public art works by internationally renowned architects and artists. The Miller House and Garden is among six National Historic Landmarks in the city.

The Miller House and Garden was the first National Historic Landmark designated with a still-living landscape architect that also was still occupied by its original owners. Also in 2000, it was included in the multiple property designation titled “Modern Architecture and Landscape Architecture in Bartholomew County, 1942-1999.” The multiple property designation also included Saarinen’s and Kiley’s nearby work at Irwin Union Bank and Trust and the North Christian Church.

Eero Saarinen was one of the leading architects of the twentieth century, whose buildings help define the extent and meaning of American Modernism. They range from extensive campuses for some of America’s largest corporations to the soaring monumentality of the St. Louis Gateway Arch. Saarinen’s work subordinated architectural style to achieving the most satisfactory solution to a given architectural problem; his malleable approach to Modernism yielded both variations on orthodox Modernism such as the Miller House and strongly sculptural and expressive structures such as the TWA Terminal and the Ingalls Hockey Rink at Yale University. For all his fame and popularity, Saarinen’s domestic commissions were extremely few in number, and the Miller House is undoubtedly the most significant, elegantly and thoughtfully resolving an ambitious program and a complex structure into a magical, light-filled space that opens on multiple sides to Dan Kiley’s landscape.

Alexander Girard, though perhaps best known today for his work as a textile and interior designer (he became director of design for the textile division of Herman Miller in 1952), was also an architect and an important contributor to the design of the Miller House from the very beginning of the process. Indeed, the further illumination of Girard’s career and design approach may be one of the most significant outcomes of this project. Within his interiors, Girard’s style combined vivid color, a strong graphic sensibility, and an affinity for decorative materials gathered from cultures around the globe. All these elements are present in the Miller House, from the bold colors used in the conversation pit, to the designs Girard executed for floor coverings, to the artifacts that enlivened the storage wall that defines the east side of the main living area. Alexander Girard speaks to Modern living in the house in a letter dated May 12, 1953 to the Millers. Girard writes: “I will certainly be most interested in doing work anywhere in this country…where there would be a chance to contribute to the advancement of living. I would count a house for you and Xenia definitely in this realm.”

Daniel Urban Kiley was noted for his seminal impact on twentieth century landscape design. In his work for the Millers, Kiley created one of the first and most important Modernist designs in residential landscape architecture on their 15-acre property. Its gridded layout expands upon the geometric order of the house, relying on plantings to form multiple overlapping planes and volumes. Kiley envisioned this series of green rooms as “pin wheeling spaces” expanding out from the residence. Based on classical design principles while fully embracing a Modern spatial sensibility inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion and the De Stijl movement, Kiley’s design for the Miller gardens harmoniously integrates the indoor and outdoor environments with a Mondrian-like, asymmetrical plan that features allées, lawns, paths, hedges, and orchards concentrated in a 4.5-acre square surrounding the residence. The Cultural Landscape Foundation hails the Miller garden as “perhaps the most important postwar garden in the United States.” The 1955 design is widely considered one of Kiley’s masterworks, and Kiley himself suggested to homeowner Xenia Miller that he believed the landscape to be his finest work.

Subject/Index Terms

Eero Saarinen & Associates
Girard, Alexander Hayden (1907-1993)
Kiley, Dan Urban (1912-2004)
Miller, J. Irwin  (Joseph Irwin) (1909-2004)
Miller, Xenia S. (1917-2008)
Miller House (Columbus, Ind.)
Roche, Kevin (1922-)
Saarinen, Eero (1910-1961)
Taylor Bros. Construction Co.

Administrative Information

Repository: Indianapolis Museum of Art Archives

Alternate Extent Statement: 335 linear feet:  54 boxes of files, photographs, samples, and drawings;  2 card file boxes; 12 oversize flat boxes of photographs and materials samples; and 40 flat files of architectural plans.

Access Restrictions: Collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions: Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.  Please contact the Archivist for more information.

Acquisition Source: Irwin Management Company Inc.

Acquisition Method: Gift

Preferred Citation: [Title of item], [date],  [Container information], Miller House and Garden Collection (M003], IMA Archives, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN.

Other URL: http://www.imamuseum.org/sites/default/files/attachments/archives-M003.pdf

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series I.: Files],
[Series II.: Photographs],
[Series III.: Drawings],
[Series IV.: Material Samples],
[Series V.: Non-Miller House Materials],